Foods That Cause Constipation in the Elderly

Constipation at any age is uncomfortable and can leave anyone feeling irritable, bloated and cranky. As people age, though, their diets can start to lack in certain foods that help keep their gastrointestinal tracts regular when they were young so they could be at a higher risk for constipation.

Foods That Cause Constipation in the Elderly

On top of that, there could be other additional factors that make regular bowel movements difficult for seniors so having to strain to have a bowel movement can just make things that much more difficult.

To make everyone more comfortable, there are certain foods that have been known to cause constipation (especially in seniors) so you can help your loved one avoid this situation by changing up their diet, just a little bit.

Bananas

Sounds weird, right? Their fruit and fruit is generally thought to be nutritious for our bodies. Well, it is but bananas can be the cause of constipation in certain cases.

Eating bananas that have not yet ripened enough has been know to cause constipation in some people. Green bananas – which is usually a signal that they are not quite ripe enough – are full of starch, and that is hard for the body to digest. In fact, you may remember how your kids would get constipated when they were young from just eating too many bananas in general.

Snacking on bananas in moderation will not cause issues in most people, so they are safe to eat once they have ripened enough. Many people will purchase bananas that are still a little green to give them time to eat them during the week – which is fine, However, it’s recommended you wait until the bananas have turned completely yellow (maybe even with a few brown spots) before eating them.

Gluten

There are many people who have some level of intolerance to gluten – ranging from slight digestive issues all the way to a condition known as Celiac disease.

Bread with Gluten

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley and it can cause people to experience issues with digesting and having regular bowel movements. If your loved one is eating a diet with a lot of wheat products in it, you may want to discuss reducing the amount of wheat they’re consuming to see if it helps.

Eliminating, or even just reducing, gluten from someone’s diet can be enough to restore regular (for them) bowel movements and have them feeling much more comfortable again.

As an added bonus, there are bread products that can be purchased that are gluten free so they can still enjoy a sandwich or a hamburger, just with different foods.

 

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White rice

This might seem like an odd food item that could cause constipation, but white rice specifically can cause some serious issues with someone’s gastrointestinal tract.

The reason? Well, white rice has been stripped of its germ, husk and bran and is almost over processed. Additionally, it contains a lot of starch which is difficult for the body to digest.

Brown rice, on the other hand, still has the husk, bran and germ, and therefore has a lot more protein and fibre than its white counterpart. In fact, brown rice can actually help relieve some mild cases of constipation and it is generally healthier (in moderation) for us to consume.

Reducing, or even completely removing, white rice in your diet can drastically impact your digestion in the long run.

Red Meat

While high in protein, which is very good for us to consume, red meat can also be the cause of constipation and stomach upset for seniors. 

The protein fibers in red meat can be difficult for our bodies to process and digest, which can lead to constipation. On top of that, this type of meat tends to be higher in fat content which mean it takes longer for it to go through your digestive tract.

Eating steak

Overall, red meat is usually ok for most people to eat in moderate amounts. However if you know you are prone to constipation you may want to choose leaner meats like chicken or fish – which are easier for your body to digest.

Some people who have had a heart attack, or are living with other cardiovascular conditions, may have been warned to stay away from red meat so it’s always important to follow the advice of your medical team.

 

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White Bread

Similar to white rice, this bread is very high in starch but has a low fiber content due to the amount of processing it takes to get from the grain to its final form.

Most bakery items are made with white flour, as opposed to whole wheat flour, so they don’t have the fiber content that whole wheat products would have. This fiber content is what helps to relieve constipation and keep your digestive tract regular.

If you make your own bread products, you can easily switch to using whole wheat flour in your baking so that you can still eat bread but you will be eating a healthier version of it.

Alcohol

Aside from all the other side effects that alcohol can have on our bodies, constipation is actually one of the more common ones.

Drinking beer

Many people don’t realize that alcohol dehydrates your body when drinking too much of it. If you want to avoid this uncomfortable side effect, you can combat it by having a glass of water in-between each alcoholic beverage you have.

It might seem weird that dehydration is being mentioned when it comes to constipation, but it’s a big factor. We might not think of it, but we do need adequate liquid in our bodies for our digestive tract to keep moving properly.

If you can avoid alcohol, or reduce the quantities you consume, you will probably find that you feel better overall and your digestive system is working better.

 

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Chocolate

Wait, chocolate makes people constipated? Well, it does if consumed in large amounts. For people who have IBS (which is irritable bowel syndrome) they already know that eating too much chocolate can leave them in a lot of pain for days.

Why does this happen? Well, chocolate contains large amounts of fat and that is hard for our bodies to digest when there’s too much of it. While we know chocolate is delicious and can be hard to avoid completely, try to eat it in moderation so that your system does not get overwhelmed trying to digest it.

Frozen Foods

This might seem like another odd one, but it does make sense once we start to look at exactly why it can cause constipation.

Frozen foods and dinners are often highly processed in order to give them a longer shelf life. They also are high in fat, low in fiber and have almost no nutritional value to them.

Frozen foods in the supermarket

In addition to all of that, they often have copious amounts of salt in them. This last part is what poses the problem: the additional water in your body will be used to dilute the salt in the food instead of being used to push waste out of your body like it’s meant to.

When people have a diet that is high in sodium, they often have hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass so their body often strains to have a bowel movement.

If you can, try to avoid foods that are highly processed and have a lot of salt in them as this will not only provide your body with better nutrition but also you will not use all the extra water in your body trying to dilute the added salt.

 

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Dairy Products

Most dairy products are great sources of calcium, however, eating too much of them will likely lead to issues with digestion for most people.

The lactose found in almost all dairy products can lead to excess bloating and gas. If you wish to, you can substitute plant-based versions (like soy milk or almond milk) can help to alleviate some of these symptoms if you find that dairy products are bothering your stomach or make you feel bloated after you consume them. You might also be interested in reading our review on the best probiotics for lactose intolerance.

Caffeinated Beverages

Most of us know that caffeinated beverages, including coffee, will act as a diuretic in your body by stimulating your bladder and bowels.

senior pouring coffee

There is, however, another side effect to consuming too much caffeine: constipation. Beverages with a lot of caffeine will actually dehydrate your body in the long run (partially because it stimulates your bladder to remove the waste from your body) so this means there is less water in your body overall to keep your digestive tract moving.

If you can, consume caffeinated beverages in moderate amounts and make sure you consume enough water during the day to keep your body hydrated.

Staying on top of your diet – especially while getting into your senior years – is important to make sure your digestive tract is working properly and you’re staying regular with your bowel movements.

By avoiding certain foods, and replacing them with others, you can make sure you’re getting enough fiber to keep your bowels regular and your digestive tract healthy.

For more home remedies for constipation, visit our page. 

If you have questions about what you should be eating to keep yourself healthy, you can meet with a dietitian and they will give you recommendations for foods to incorporate into your diet on a regular basis.

About Estephanie Jill

Estephanie Jill (EJBP, BSPT, PTRP) is a licensed physiotherapist. She is a home health care provider, laboratory technician for physical therapy students, medical transcriptionist, and an advocate of the physiotherapy profession. Apart from that, she loves writing. Playing to her strengths, she mainly writes around health and fitness, She has been commended for her writing in the past. Her other passions include commenting on societal changes and writing life reflective pieces. She enjoys meaningful conversations, and detaching from the digital world to do yoga and meditation. She is a self-confessed foodie who enjoys eating for the experience and then burning it all off through exercise.